At bargaining on July 13th, the 40th negotiation session between GEO and the administration, grad workers came ready to make movement with proposals related to workload (combined appointments), healthcare, international GSIs, and workplace disability accommodations. After a brief caucus with members, the Bargaining Team introduced proposals which would cap annual out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs ($750/individual or $1500/family), doctor visits ($750/individual or $1500/family), and mental health care ($100/individual or $200/family). After receiving the four package proposals from the Bargaining Team, the University’s team declined to pass any offers of its own and the session was ended.
At bargaining on June 23rd, GEO members voted to end the session early and walk out after a frustrating conversation about the latest sexual harassment scandal at the University. At the session, grads relayed the harrowing details of Professor Stephenson’s abuse of his grad workers to HR, in hopes of reassessing our proposed Transitional Funding Program (TFP) further at the table. This program would offer at least a semester of funding for grads who need to escape an abusive work environment.
On Friday, June 23, graduate workers walked out of a bargaining session with the University of Michigan’s Human Resources (HR), after HR refused to take responsibility for the latest sexual harassment scandal involving Professor Robert Stephenson’s abuse of two graduate students, reported on by the Michigan Daily on June 7. During negotiations, Garima Singh, Co-Chair of GEO’s Feminist Caucus, recounted the harrowing details of the case, in which the Equity, Civil Rights, and Title IX office (ECRT) dismissed, minimized, and misinterpreted evidence against Stephenson to find that he had not violated University policy. HR hid behind technicalities in an attempt to justify their proposal on harassment protections, which would not have protected Stephenson’s survivors. With multiple harassment survivors in the room, graduate workers grew frustrated with HR’s refusal to work with graduate students to solve the harassment crisis and voted to walk out. According to GEO President Jared Eno, “graduate workers walked out today because we are fed up with HR’s prioritization of arbitrary rules and procedures over the real-life experiences of workers—which only mirrors the institutional betrayals perpetrated by ECRT.”
At a press conference this week, grad workers announced that the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), U-M's accrediting body, will move forward with our complaint about the grade falsification scandal. Grads filed the complaint with the HLC after Provost McCauley and Dean Curzan pressured department chairs and non-instructional staff into submitting fabricated grades for the students of striking workers. The evidence that workers compiled ( was enough to raise "potential concerns regarding the institution’s compliance with the Criteria for Accreditation", according to an email from the HLC. A loss of accreditation would have severe consequences for U-M. According to GEO spokesperson Amir Fleischmann "this shows the power of our strike: the only way Admin could get grades in without us was by falsifying hundreds of grades. This risky maneuver has now jeopardized U-M's accreditation. They won't be able to do it again."
ANN ARBOR—On Wednesday, June 7th, 2023, the Michigan Daily published an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and abuse perpetrated by Professor Robert Stephenson in the School of Nursing at the University of Michigan. Two graduate students who worked under Stephenson allege that he harassed and abused them over the course of several years. The Daily investigation details the abundance of evidence provided by the abuse survivors and the Equity, Civil Rights, and Title IX office (ECRT) dismissed, minimized, and misinterpreted this evidence to find that Stephenson had not violated University policy. Garima Singh, co-chair of GEO’s Feminist Caucus, states “this story reveals what grad workers already know: that the power hierarchies, culture, and organizational workings of the University of Michigan enable and normalize abuse. The two grad workers victimized by Professor Stephenson showed incredible bravery and integrity by attempting to hold him accountable. That the University has fought and retraumatized them is more evidence that real change is urgently needed.”
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